Queensland ALP:

ALP Queensland State President Andrew Dettmer writes: Re. “ALP National Executive to launch secret review of QLD campaign” (yesterday, item 3). I refer to the article in yesterday’s edition of Crikey. I have no idea where Andrew Crook received his information, but for the record:

  1. It is standard practice after every election to review the performance of the party.
  2. The State Administrative Committee, at its first meeting after the convincing win of the Bligh Labor Government, resolved to undertake the review. The suggestion was made by State Secretary Anthony Chisholm and Assistant State Secretary Terry Wood.
  3. The review was not the subject of any consideration by the National Executive. Karl Bitar and Luke Foley are two experienced party officials who have had extensive experience in elections.
  4. Far from being secret, the decision to undertake the review was published in the minutes of the State Administrative Committee, which are provided to all party units.

Mick Keelty:

Peter Burnett writes: Re. “Pollies’ praise for Mick Keelty chafes with his resume” (yesterday, item 2). The other thing that is important about Mick Keelty’s departure is what will happen to his overseas empire, with AFP officers scattered around the region and far beyond: RAMSI in Solomon Islands; police training in Timor; the Enhanced Co-operation Program (Mark 2) in Papua New Guinea; Police Commissioners (until they were kicked out) in Solomons, Fiji and Nauru; the Transnational Crime Co-ordination Centre in Samoa; lots of counter-terrorism training at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement; UN ops in Yugoslavia, Cyprus etc.

In August 2006, John Howard announced that the AFP’s International Deployment Group (IDG) would be increased by about 400 personnel, taking the total to 1200. This was the largest single increase in AFP staff since the force was established in 1979, costing $493 million over five years.

Under the IDG, Keelty moved to establish a 200-strong Operational Response Group (ORG). This involved beefing up the AFP into a paramilitary force with riot shields, tear gas and even proposals — yet to eventuate — to buy armoured cars to patrol the streets of Dili, Honiara and Nuku’alofa.

Thus far, Kevin Rudd has agreed to maintain the IDG — in the 2008 budget, the AFP got another $191 million for 500 new officers over five years. It will be interesting to see how much the IDG gets in this year’s budget, now that Keelty has announced his farewell.

The Monthly:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. “Warhaft reaches for a lawyer in The Monthly fracas” (yesterday, item 5). In line with the “Monthly” saga, I request that Crikey give due coverage to the internecine fighting that has occurred in the P&C canteen of my daughter’s public school. “Jane” the self appointed head sandwich maker has had a huge fight with “Carol” who fancies her self a tab hand with the tomato sauce.

Apparently she wasn’t happy having to slice the cheese and tomatoes while Jane, in cohorts with the headmaster, took control and bossed her around the kitchen. Carol’s supporters say that she is nice looking and has a good figure. They say Jane is jealous and old.

Though they used to be good friends, Carol is now sensationally not speaking to Jane. Really, it is the most riveting sh-t fight, totally unprecedented in terms of human dynamics, quite profound in terms of what it says about the human condition and the pressing big issues of the day.

Long letters from various parties have been flying right left and centre, some of them well written. One supporter of Carol has said that he doesn’t like Jane anymore.

Can you believe it! At your indulgence, full transcripts will be forwarded in the coming days.

Geoff Russell writes: I’ve had one piece published in The Monthly and it involved working closely with Sally Warhaft (whom I hadn’t heard of at the time). I didn’t much care for comments about her published in Crikey yesterday.

Was she “Difficult to work with”? Absolutely, because she was meticulous and careful, exactly like good reviewers in peer reviewed science journals.

“Controlling, inflexible, refused to discuss”? Rubbish.

I’m guessing some precious puppies just have a hard time with robust debate.

The Kevin Rudd Lower Lip Index (LLI):

An amateur face-reader writes: I have now worked out how to gauge the importance to Australia of a national or international issue simply be reading Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s face, in particularly his lower lip. As any selection of media photographs will show, each issue can be given an LLI, making it easier for us to instantly assess the gravity of the challenge facing us.

The index is based on millimetre gradients, with a small pout triggered by — say — CEO salaries, registering an LLI of 2 or 3. The Global Financial Crisis registered an LLI of 12 – and so far, no issue has caused such a big reading (except for momentary reactions to Bill Henson and People Smugglers).

NSW infrastructure:

Shirley Colless writes: Re. “Bob Carr’s excuses backfire explosion” (yesterday, item 13). Neither Premiers Greiner, Fahey nor Carr did very much to bring NSW infrastructure up to date. Why? I have been told that one of the reasons could be that someone, whether Greiner, Fahey or Carr, or all three, not only skimmed as much as possible in dividends out of the NSW statutory authorities but also raided their reserves to pay for the Sydney Olympics, thus preventing those authorities from using those reserves for the very purpose for which reserves are created — upgrading their public facilities. And did Premier Wran do much the same thing, and for what benefit? True?

Peter Rosier writes: Alex Mitchell should know better: Jim Spigelman may be titled the Chief Justice of New South Wales, but in fact his jurisdiction begins in, and ends with, the Supreme Court. Justice Boland, himself a Chief Judge, is the head of another jurisdiction, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, and he needs no approval from, or to talk to, anyone about matters concerning his own jurisdiction. He’s the King Pin, man, and where he stalks, there’s none better or bigger.


Martin Gordon writes: Re.”No argument for dumping Rudd’s tax cuts” (yesterday, item 1). The coverage of US tax changes was predictably hysterical rather than rational. In the current economic climate there is a dangerous emphasis on envy and witch hunts. The US if it is like Australia’s experience the predicted revenue from these tax projects (like Project Wickenby) never realise the revenue claimed, and always cost more than clamed.

In the case of the US it is expected that US$210 billion will be collected against projected outlays over the next decade of at least US$40 trillion that is about 0.5%, not quite peanuts but not much more.

I am pleased that the Democrat Chair of the Senate finance committee Max Baucus issued a cautionary note, about not undermining the global competitiveness of US businesses. In this political climate emotion often prevails over clear headed thinking.

Jury duty:

Crikey: Re. “Time to take the jury out of criminal judgment” (yesterday, item 17). Following Greg Barns item in yesterday’s Crikey we asked readers to relay to us their experiences and opinions of jury service in Australia. Here’s what they came up with:

Gavin Putland writes: Greg Barns is right about one point: If you were charged with a crime and were innocent, you would want your fate decided by an appropriately trained professional (or several) who must give reasons. But Barns omits another point: If you were hauled into court for doing something that should be legal but isn’t, you would want your fate decided by people who don’t have to explain that they are acquitting you because they perceive, as you do, that the law is an ass.

Some people will say that the frustration of duly enacted laws by unelected jurors is contrary to democracy. Poppyc-ck. For one thing, the people don’t get to vote on specific laws unless they become jurors. As mere electors they only get to vote for candidates, each of whom comes with a package of views and loyalties which may not even be known at the time of the election.

For another, in every democratic organization, from the smallest club to the greatest nation-state, it is accepted that a more extreme decision requires a stronger mandate; for example, changing the constitution of the club probably requires more than an ordinary motion. And in a State that claims to be free, there are few decisions more extreme than to enact a law whereby persons who commit certain acts shall lose their freedom.

If such a law, in order to be enforced in a particular case, must be approved not only by the legislature and the executive but also by whichever twelve citizens make up the jury, then that is just another example of a more extreme decision requiring a stronger mandate. And don’t get me started on the role of money in the making of laws, including laws that criminalize behaviour simply because it reduces monopoly profits. That’s plutocracy or kleptocracy, not democracy.

If trial by jury is not always best, the solution is not to abolish it, but to give the defendant a choice between two or more forms of trial.

John Owen writes: I most certainly agree with Greg Barns. I worked in the Magistrates Courts for over 40 years, where of course juries are unknown in the (limited) criminal jurisdiction, where Magistrates gave (and continue to give) reasons for decisions they make when passing judgment, and whose decisions are subject to Appeal to the District Court (comprised of a Judge). In my experience, the vast majority of these Appeals were against “the severity of the sentence” and NOT the finding of fact.

In my early career, when acting as a Clerk of Arraigns, I observed more than one blatantly incorrect Jury decision — both in criminal and especially in one civil jury decision – where the judge simply shook his head in astonishment but could make no comment. There was no prospect of Appeal as that Jury had been properly instructed by the Judge, but he had obviously been ignored by the jury in this “hometown” decision. I am sure that many DC Judges would back these comments, especially when working in country areas.

Apart from the expense to the State, most jurors are obviously reluctant to serve, the recompense is low, and any prospective Juror showing such reluctance should be disqualified anyway, otherwise he/she just wants to get it over with and get out of there, if selected. Good on you Greg Barns for starting a discussion on something that has been obvious to many of us years.

Nigel Savidge writes: I agree with Greg Barns’ comments regarding the need for a fundamental re-examination of the jury system, although for somewhat different reasons. For the victims of crime, there is a sound argument to be made that miscarriages of justice also occur when factually guilty people are acquitted through either poor police investigation or the “failure” of the jury-trial process itself. Juries not only convict innocent people because of their prejudices, but they will also acquit the factually guilty on precisely the same grounds.

Most seasoned police investigators have experienced the sheer disbelief that follows the acquittal of an accused by a trial jury in the face of overwhelming, ethically and reliably obtained factual evidence. Such decisions not only leave the victims and the police incredulous, but the trial judge as well. The jury is not referred to as the “twelve-headed monster” for no reason. In addition to issues of prejudice, there is also the crucial matter of understanding.

If the jury system is to be retained, then for lengthy trails involving complex technical evidence, such as major fraud matters, is it not reasonable in the interests of justice to expect that the jury should be capable of fully understanding the evidence upon which it decides its verdict?

Steve Martin writes: A lot of this makes sense, but I note that the Ferguson case was handled by judge only and justice seems to have been done, so why throw the baby out with the bath water. Perhaps stronger directions from the trial judge and jury’s reasons being anonymously published would overcome some of the problems. Also the option of judge only trials at the discretion of the accused. Jury service is certainly a pain, it costs you time and money but it is a civic duty, and should be viewed in that light.

It seems that we are slowly losing rights in the name of the “war on terror” and I would be loath to support any move that would curtail our safeguards against state excesses further. Remember the Star Chamber, it may be centuries later but authorities can’t be trusted without checks and balances.

David Carment writes: While I am not permitted to say anything specific about my own jury service, the experience convinced me that our justice system would be better served if juries are abolished or reformed for all the reasons that Greg Barns suggests. If juries are to be retained in certain cases, court processes ought to be altered to avoid the repetition of evidence that frequently makes trials last longer than they need to. Juries also need to be better compensated and treated.

An independent contractor that I knew lost thousands of dollars because of work he could not do and customers who went elsewhere during his jury service. I learned recently that jurors are not even normally allowed to make important work related or personal telephone calls on their mobiles during lunch breaks in a trial.

Robert Ford writes: I agree with Greg Barns. Juries can be a joke. I know of one member who claimed “if the police charged him he must be guilty”. Another believed that “no person could be evil enough to commit…”

Most have no training in logical argument either, and nearly all would prefer not to be there at all.

Alan Kennedy writes: The question we all must ask about juries is: do you want to be judged by 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty?

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey